Monday, June 13, 2011

The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim 2011

Yesterday morning, the forecast was for a hot and humid day with a high of 90 degrees F. The water temp in the bay was 78 degrees F and the 20th Annual Great Chesapeake Bay swim was going to be the hottest one ever on record. Oh boy.


All the swimmers came into Sandy Point State Park, making their way toward registration. Two of my teammates and my friend Maura would be doing the swim for the first time.


Yesterday was my third.

We checked in and got our packets which had our timing chips for our ankles, our swim caps and race numbers.


Then they mark the race numbers on our arms and hands so if we die out there, they can figure out who we are and who to call with the bad news...Of course, we've already signed a waiver that says if we die, no one is responsible but our own stupid selves.


There were 10 of us from the Central Maryland YMCA Masters doing the swim this year.

It's always great to have a team of people to share tips and knowledge about the race. Luckily, we found a bit of shady real estate along with the 660 other swimmers...all huddled under the 12 trees of "forest" near the beach.


There are two bridges that span the 4.4 mile crossing of the Chesapeake Bay.

The goal is to swim from the beach, between the two bridges and stay there for the majority of the race. If, at any point, you pass underneath either of the two bridges, you are disqualified and the Coast Guard picks you up. No arguments. No second chances.


Toward the end of the swim, we cross back under the far bridge and swim to a beach on the opposite shore. It's a fairly straightforward swim except for the current in the big main channel. That's the tough part.


Luckily we have a coach to give us strategies for swimming the course and to answer any questions.


This is when the first-timers are thinking..."Now, why am I doing this?" I remember having that same thought.


So I came prepared with just the right antidote to that nervous anxiety. Miracle Bubbles.


And War Paint. War Paint make you feel stronger and tougher and faster....


Next, we put on Body Glide...it's used to protect the skin from abrasion from the wetsuit after swimming for multiple hours. Can you tell which part of Maura's body typically gets sore from her wetsuit?


And my BNF (blogging needle friend), Judy had sent me a four-leaf clover that she had found for good luck. Thank you Judy! I stuck it in my swim cap and it helped me many times along my way...


And our friend Laurie was there to cheer us on and help us to get into our rubber sausage casings.


I mean...wetsuits.

In fact, because of the high air and water temperatures this day, the big decision was whether or not to wear a wetsuit.


Many swimmers chose not to.

Though we had never experienced this warm of a race day, neither one of us felt comfortable not wearing it -- it gives a lot of buoyancy to your body making you glide more easily through the water.

It does, however, make you hot. After all, it's meant to be worn in cold water conditions... So we drank a lot of water, put on our wetsuits, kissed our friends and family, and headed out...


To the beach...


And the starting line...


Where we took sight of the buoys we would have to swim through to get in between the two bridges.


And we were off.


And we left behind all the advice...all our friends...our water...our sunscreen...

For the next 2.5 to 3.5 hours, it's just a long swim. And you have no idea how well your friends are doing until it's all over.

For me, it was by far the hardest of my three swims.

I'm not sure exactly why.

Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was because I'm heavier and less in shape than I was two years ago, or maybe it was the current in the Big Bad Channel that did me in.

The Big Bad Channel almost kicked my butt. As I started across, I was already dangerously close to the South span and the current was threatening to push me under the far bridge which would disqualify me. So I swam harder than I've had to swim before...in a horizontal direction, trying to fight the current and stay moving forward.

By the time I got through there, I was exhausted. And I wasn't even halfway. I felt nauseous and spent and I still had a loooong way to go.

So I closed my eyes...and drew energy from all your well wishes...from the shamrock in my cap...and from this man who I knew was waiting for me on the opposite shore.


He was also my camera man. Didn't he do a good job?

Anyway, I kept wondering if I could actually pass out while swimming? And how long would it take the Coast Guard to pick me up if I did? Then I put those thoughts out of my head and kept going...telling myself I couldn't faint until I got to Jimmy. Funny, the thoughts that come to you in the middle of torture.

Meanwhile, Maura won her fight in the Big Bad Channel and was having an awesome swim.

This is what you look like when you come out of the water feeling awesome!


And this is what you look like when you come out of the water, looking for your husband and ready to pass out...


It's not pretty, I know.

Not all days can be good ones. And not all posts can be pretty.

But I guess, when it's all said and done, of the three Bay swims I've done, I think I learned the most from this one.
  1. I learned that next race I need to be in much better shape so that I can choose not to wear a wetsuit if it's too hot.
  2. I learned that I need to be in much better shape period.
  3. I learned that I shouldn't get lackadaisical about my race strategy or my training just because I've done a race before. I think I was a little too laid back this time...
  4. I learned that I really loved my husband and he was really who I wanted to see when I was feeling so bad. The only other time I felt that way was when I was in labor having Jack.
  5. I learned that having four leaf clovers in your swim cap, and emails and cards from your friends really do work when you need them to...
  6. I learned that it's not really about whether or not it was a good swim or a bad swim...what it's really about is getting off the couch, putting on your war paint, and just showing up.
  7. I learned that having friends who have awesome days helps to wipe out my bad ones. And, last but not least...
  8. I learned that War Paint works.

Today, the pain and torture of yesterday's swim is beginning to fade...and good memories are surfacing, erasing the bad. Just like in childbirth.

I guess that means I'm going to do it again.

Tomorrow, I'm back to stitching. Notwithstanding two sore arms and shoulders.

Thanks to everyone who wished me luck. I used it!

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

So proud of you! You are a winner. Jane

Front Range Stitcher said...

Wet suit no wet suit you are a beauty filled woman! I am in awe of your courage on all levels and so proud of you. Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us - just when "can't" and "afraid" become more prominent in my vocabulary, you come along with your brave self inspiring us all to think otherwise. Can you feel the gratitude coming back atcha? Enjoy the day stitching and recalling a day you'll never forget. Congratulations!

Mouse said...

ohhhh well done on the race :) you did it ...war paint an all :) happy stitching once your arms have recovered :) love mouse xxxx

RuthB said...

Congratulations!!!!

Marnie said...

You crack me up with the "I'm so out of shape I only swam the Chesapeake Bay today"! Holy cow woman. Do you ever slow down? What a constant source of inspiration you are to me. Here's me bowing to the incredible being that is SUSAN! You Rock
BTW, if I even tried to swim across my bathtub, I'd need the Coast Guard on stand-by. :-D

Vicky~ stichr ~ said...

yeah war paint! i think you need to become a coach! you are such an encouraging woman no matter what you do!

as for the war paint...i think we all need that now and then.

Gerry Krueger said...

You were in my thoughts and heart all day yesterday but it NEVER even occurred to me (even for a nano second) that you wouldn't finish it... AND I loved the war paint... it was soooooooo you... I am definitely going to try that when needed... The pictures are awesome... Hug Ger

Allison Ann Aller said...

This is a fabulous accomplishment but I disagree....this IS a pretty post, in fact a drop dead gorgeous one. Well done Susan! And Jim too for the great photos... xoxo

Lisa said...

You are one AMAZING woman!!!

Marty52 said...

Well done, m'lady... you are truly an inspiration!!

Nancy said...

Congratulations on living the dream!! You ROCK!!!

a2susan said...

Bravo!

Cathy K said...

Congratulations on a successful swim and especially for persevering. Seventy-eight degrees? Our AIR isn`t even that warm here! Looks like you had a wonderful time, and I think it is awesome that you are so determined. You are my hero! Hugs, Cathy

Elmsley Rose said...

What a wonderful tale, and a wonderful adventure! May you do many many more Bay swims!

Barbara C said...

Congratulations on finishing the race. It sounds like it was a tremendous challenge, and you showed up and did it. Good for you!

Shirlee Fassell said...

congratulations on you accomplishment!! You did yourself proud.. I will have to remember the war paint for my next "adventure"...

Momma Bear said...

Susan you are awesome!!
whether you had an awesome swim or not!
you ar my inspiration to get my fluffy butt off the couch and get back on my bike. 45* 2 1/5 mile hill or bust!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I was thinking about you yesteday and I just knew you would do a great job and you did!!! I am soooooo proud of you!!! You are and continue to be a great inspiration to me and to so many others. It looked like you had a wonderful time and I think you look terrrific as usual!!!
You are truly a sweetheart!!!!!
Maureen in Maryland

Carol said...

Hi Susan!!
You are just absolutely amazing. You have to be in pretty damn good shape to finish this race. And war paint to maintain your sense of humor.

Interesting list of things you learned this time around. War paint? Ya think?

You are fantastic.
xx, Carol

MosaicMagpie said...

Well I guess my last comment turned out to be a good one....just keep swimming....Girl you are a hero! I don't often say I can't or couldn't but I could not have done that and I am so proud of you for doing it! What an accomplishment!
Deb

Patty C. said...

Awesome
I am very proud of you !!!!

Rachel said...

Great to know it turned out so well.
You've learnt something else too - even when you aren't sure whether you will make it, you can make it!

Elizabeth said...

OMG !!!!! You are amazing!!!! I am so inawe of you and your determination and strength and character and WAR PAint!!!!! I would have quit at the wet suit put on in such nasty weather bit!!! ICH!!! But then I never would have gotten to that point!!!! I have never been confident in the water after a boating accident when I was young. Never fought to over come that fear!!! Again you blow me away!!!! So glad that you made it safe and sound and look at what you learned!! Jim is so sweet and supportive so glad that he was there wishing you on and Swimming you forward!! Was Jack in the kayak with you!!!???

Rest up Wonder WOman and I can't wait to see how the stitching is going!!!!

Catherine said...

Fabulous pictures!! Congratulations!! I must say you are truly an inspiration!! Whoo-hoo!!

verobirdie said...

You are a true warrior! You must be so proud!

leilani said...

You are an AWSOME woman!

Linda H said...

WOW! What a woman you are Susan! I salute your dedication, your perseverance, your tenacity! You have my TOTAL admiration. You inspire others with your needlework AND your joie de vivre. You ROCK! Congrats! Hugs Linda

Evelyn and Lise said...

Great Job!!!!!! Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. You inspire us each day with your beautiful art, your courage to try things that we just dream about. Congratulations !! Lise

lynne neal said...

You did a fantastic job at swimming and you looked fantastic doing it, loved reading all about the swim ,way to go I would have passed out as soon as the water got deep!!!!!

Sandie said...

Well done you and everyone!
Awsome swimbabes LOL!

Sandie xx

flower friend said...

Wow, great post. As I scrolled down and read each stage I could feel the tension building and I wanted to cheer once I knew you had made it. Well done and you've spurred me on to have a go at new challenges.

Dees said...

you are a winner!

Maureen said...

What an inspiring post, well done! I'm soooo going to try the warpaint on my next OW swim, haha, I'll be the only one but you never know, it might just catch on over here too... .
I'm doing the Great Swim series here in UK and posting at http://iswim.posterous.com/ - feel free to drop by and say hi :)

Robin said...

Susan,
You are my hero. I can not swim; I am afraid of deep water. I admire your determination and documentation. Thanks for sharing. Robin

FredaB said...

Dear Susan

I am so proud of you for doing this for the third time. That is wonderful. I felt bad when I read how you felt while swimming across but you Made It! Congratulations.

Hugs

FredaB

ps - My daughter's 15 year old wants a hat for his birthday like Jacks. I laughed so hard when she told me thinking of all the pics we have seen of Jack with that hat. I guess that will be our Kyle too.

Daphne said...

Congrats on your awesome achievement! So what don't you do, WonderWoman??? I agree with Allison, I see a beautiful post full of wonderful war paint, wonderful friends and a wonderful (and wonderfully talented as a photographer) husband! Oh yeah, and WonderWoman!

Queen Bee's Musings said...

Wow so very impressive. I congratulate you! High five!
That was awesome. I have done marathons but never attempt a feat such as that, you have all my admiration!

Sandi said...

you go girl!!!!!!!

Vicki W said...

Good for you! You are stronger than I!

vicki said...

YOU totally rock- YOU are amazing- YOU have totally inspired about a gazillion people with post- YOU- are a winner regardless of where you place. I am blown away- YOU are my new hero!!
Vicki

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